February 19, 2023

Joe Stevens' Life and Work in Magic Impacted The World's Greatest Magicians and Mentalists

Fellow Kansans remember him as the Hall of Fame Shocker Basketball player; his closest family and friends know him best for his life and contributions to the art of magic, mentalism, and illusion.

As a professional mentalist and entertainer, I know how important the role of magic dealers is in our community. They provide us with the tools we need to create our illusions and bring our performances to life. So, it is with great sadness that I write about the recent passing of Joe J. Stevens, my long-time friend and the founder and owner of Stevens Magic Emporium, who passed away on February 10th, 2023.  He was preceded in death by his lovely and wonderful wife Martha, who passed away in June 2021.   

Joe and Martha Stevens pictured with magic legends Dai Vernon, Tony Slydini, Paul Stone, David Copperfield
Joe was one of the most respected members of the magic and mentalism community. He was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1941. He developed a love of magic at an early age and began performing as a teenager. He eventually became a collector of magic.  In 1973 he and his wife Martha opened Stevens Magic Emporium; a brick-and-mortar magic shop that also specialized in mail-orders and delivery world-wide.  They were shipping magical props, books, and other items around the world long before the internet as we know it existed!  Over the years, he built the business into one of the most respected magic shops in the world.

Joe Stevens and his son Mark pictured with magic legend Johnny Thompson

I first met Joe in-person back in 2007, but I have known about him and Stevens Magic Emporium since I was in my teens in the mid 1980s.  I would regularly see their ads and famous Dove logo in catalogues, magic magazines and literature, on convention promotions and more.  I never ordered from their catalog as I lived near another brick-and-mortar magic store in Champaign, IL, and would often just walk in and get or order whatever I needed.  However, after moving my family from Seattle, WA to the Wichita, KS area back in 2005, Stevens Magic Emporium naturally became my go-to source for anything I needed!

Over the years, I had repeated long chats with Joe in the men's locker room at our local downtown YMCA.  He was an avid handball player.  I'm a swimmer.  But we would often see each other in the locker room after workouts;  I'd tell him of my time on the road doing shows and he'd fill me in on some of the latest things in the magic world.

I'll never forget him inviting me to have breakfast with him and a few other magicians at the very last World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas.  I've never been much for attending those things (I'm usually too busy!) but he made that time memorable and fun.  It was at that time I began meeting and getting to know some of the most famous magicians in the world.

Joe Stevens was a 2014 Wichita Shocker Hall of Fame Inductee
In 2014, Joe was inducted into the Wichita Shockers Sports Hall of Fame.  He played for WSU from 1955-1958.  One of Joe's family members that (I've known for many years) recently told me that he still holds records that are unbroken to this day!  He is in the top 20 all-time scorers in men's basketball at WSU, a feat that is quite impressive even today (especially as they didn't have "3-pointers" back then).

Our Beloved Joe and Martha Stevens
Joe Stevens inspired generations of magicians to strive for excellence in their performances and was always willing to offer support and guidance. His fantastic conventions such as the Desert Magic Seminar (later named the "World Magic Seminar") have spawned some of the most fantastic magic conventions today.  Check out this old video by Joe's son Mark Stevens as he re-caps over 30 years of memories of this wonderful piece of magic history:

Both Joe and Martha are missed by many.  I will miss our talks and visits, and his always spot-on and sagely advice.  I'm a better man, magician, mentalist, and performer for having both of them in my life.  I invite my fellow magical performers and anyone and everyone who has been influenced by them in any way to take a moment and reflect on their lives and contributions to our special and peculiar little world.